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see aschelminthsaschelminths
, large assemblage of loosely related, wormlike organisms of extremely varied structure and habits. Formerly considered an animal phylum, these organisms are now more commonly referred to as pseudocoelomates and are divided in to a number of different phyla,
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A phylum of minute metazoan animals (formerly placed in the aschelminth group) numbering 500 described species worldwide. Some 300 species have been reported from the marine habitat, with new ones being described every year.

Gatrotrichs comprise two orders, the Macrodasyida and the Chaetonotida. The term Gastrotricha refers to the ventral locomotor cilia by which the animals glide gracefully over the substratum or through its interstices; unlike many other ciliated animals, they cannot move in reverse. Gastrotrichs have a complete digestive tract, with a sucking pharynx, a simple intestine with a wall only a single cell thick, and an anus. They appear to be selective feeders on bacteria, very small protozoa, and yeasts. Most have protonephridia, accounting in part for their broad salinity tolerances.

Gastrotrichs appear to be regionally cosmopolitan, with 20–30% having broad distributions within continents, and 10–15% between continents; endemism probably does not exceed 20%.

The phylum Gastrotricha is the most primitive in the aschelminth group of phyla. Gastrotrichs and nematodes probably share a common ancestor, which in turn was descended from a stock that included gnathostomulids and turbellarianoid animals. See Nemata

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a class of lower worms of the phylum Nemathelminthes (roundworms). It was identified by the Russian biologist I. I. Mechnikov. There are approximately 200 species of these microscopic aquatic animals. The body (up to 1.5 mm long) is elongated and wormlike, with cilia on the ventral side. On the skin there are cuticular scales or bristles and special cement glands. The central nervous system consists of paired cerebral ganglia and two lateral nerve trunks. The sense organs are small pigmented eye spots, tactile bristles, and small olfactory pits on the body. The muscles are in the form of separate thin muscle bundles. The excretory organs are a pair of short coiled pronephridia ducts that open to the exterior on the sides of the body. Gastrotricha are hermaphroditic or have separate sexes. They usually have paired reproductive organs.


Rukovodstvo po zoologii, vol. 1. Edited by L. A. Zenkevich. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(invertebrate zoology)
A group of microscopic, pseudocoelomate animals considered either to be a class of the Aschelminthes or to constitute a separate phylum.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Because of the complete absence of locomotory cilia in Nematoda, in conjunction with several other morphological characters, we agree with Lorenzen (1985) that the Nematoda is, at best, a sister taxon to the Gastrotricha.
Our analysis resulted in a monophyletic Gastrotricha (82% bootstrap values).
Still, the presence of duogland adhesive organs in all Gastrotricha has not been confirmed, and it remains to be seen whether the presence of only a single gland is actually the "primitive" condition or is secondarily derived.
In particular, trends in nervous-system structure in the Gastrotricha are revealed within the tree topology of the Macrodasyida.
Additionally, molecular systematics place the Gastrotricha in a variety of positions within the metazoan tree: as a sister group to either the Acanthocephala (Carranza et al., 1997), the Gnathostomulida (Littlewood et al., 1998), the Nematomorpha (Carranza et al., 1997), or the Platyhelminthes (Winnepenninckx et al., 1995).
A comprehensive and congruent classification of the phylum Gastrotricha is essential if its origin and phylogenetic significance are to be fully appreciated.
Our study presents an evolutionary hypothesis for all Gastrotricha. Within this morphological framework, we now can address specific questions of relationships within and among individual gastrotrich taxa.
Origin and phylogenetic significance of freshwater psammic Gastrotricha. Stygologia 5(2): 87-92.
Monociliated epidermal cells in Gastrotricha: significance for concepts of early metazoan evolution.
Ultrastructural study of body wall organization and Y-cell composition in the Gastrotricha. Z.
Zur Ultrastmktur des Nervensystems bei Cephalodasys maximus (Macrodasyida Gastrotricha).